August 2005 Archives

Vacations

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Tiffany makes some good comments about Washington’s inept response to people trying to survive in the wake of Katrina.

It’s hard to be enthusiastic about the little things in my life when there are so many people who suddenly have nothing. I do have to wonder if the federal gov was the only entity in our hemisphere unaware that a potential cat 5 hurricane was bearing down on the Gulf shores of three states. News today of Navy ships and the floating hospital heading that way means they will get there in a WEEK. Why? Because they were still in Virginia today. Maybe, just maybe, they should have been moseying on down toward the Gulf a couple of days ago—yes, it costs something to move them, but thousands of people are stuck without food, water, medical attention, or law enforcement and surely the federales could have just eaten the cost of turning around if it turned out they weren’t needed. I mean, I know there’s a war on and everything, but we’re not completely destitute as a nation. At least not financially anyway. I won’t speak for our national moral state. By the way, speaking of the war—which I don’t do very often here—apparently increasing casualties and insurgent attacks are no reason to cut short a vacation by the prez, but the Gulf getting wiped off the map is. Those people vote! I hope the prez is refreshed so he can deal with another major US city being devastated on his watch. Maybe this time we can start a war with Haiti or something.

Tired of Chain Letters

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I only get forwarded chain letters from one source: my party-Republican step-father. He seems to be under an impression that I am a Democrat. (I’m not. I’m an independent civil libertarian, who despises the people currently running the Republican party.) Regardless of the truth of my individuality, he still thinks that I am a Democrat in need of saving from the dark side.

So he sends me from his AOL account all these rather stupid urban legends about how evil liberals and Democrats and since my spam blocker notices that they are spam I have taken to ignore them.

Now after getting a four megabyte spam today, I’ve changed my mail filter to delete all emails from him on sight. I’m simply tired of people who have no idea how to use email tactfully.

I blame Bush

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Well we were greeted this afternoon with climbing gas prices ($3 a gallon up 50 cents in two days) and lines at stations to fill up. It appears that most of Athens’s supply of gas is now dry since Katrina has destroyed the Gulf Coast. I’ve heard reports that we will soon have no gas. Maybe this problem wouldn’t be so bad if our administration didn’t insist on

  • pissing off Venezuela, our closest foreign resource for oil,
  • a war to settle a family vendetta,
  • sending National Guard Troops half way around the world,
  • drilling in Alaska is the way to solve our commercial oil problems,
  • cutting all USACE funding from New Orleans which would help protect from hurricanes,
  • etc.

Feel free to list your own reasons for this impending problem.

Update

According to radio reports, the long gas lines were only occuring in Athens because of rumors circulating town that we’d run out of gas or were going to run out by tomorrow. I guess they were started by the local paper warning about the possibility of having no gas available to consumers next week. (Who cares about gas prices if there is no gas to buy?) Of course herd mentality played a part. “Gee, Marge, let’s get in line because those five SUV’s are in line.”

Our governor has told people to stop topping off their tanks and to donate to the Red Cross.

Dawg Proofs

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I’ve gotten the proofs of my Bioinformatics paper on Dawg (a sequence evolution simulation program). I have two days to make any corrections and send them back to the editor’s office. I also have a form to order offprints (those fancy reprints), but since it will cost more money than I have access to at the moment, I will just stick with pdf reprints.

Now I have to go back to the painful task of proofing my manuscript.

Tennessee

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A joke from a friend:

A University of Tennessee family of football supporters headed out one Saturday to do their Christmas shopping in Chattanooga. While in the sports shop, the son picked up a Georgia jersey and said to his older sister, “I’ve decided to become a Georgia fan and I would like this for Christmas”.

His big sister, outraged by this, promptly whacked him on the head and said, “Go talk to Mom”. Off went the little lad with the Georgia jersey in hand, finding his mother. “Mom?”

“Yes son?”

“I’ve decided I’m going to be a Georgia fan and I would like this jersey for Christmas”. The mother, outraged at this, promptly whacked him on the head and said “Go talk to your father!”

Off he went with the Georgia jersey in hand and found his father.

“Dad?” “Yes son?”

“I’ve decided I’m going to be a Georgia fan and I would like this jersey for Christmas”. The father, outraged, promptly whacked his son in the head and said, “No son of mine is ever going to be seen in THAT!”

About half an hour later they were all back in the car, heading for home. The father turned to his son and says “Son, I hope you’ve learned something today?”

The son said, “Yes, Dad, I have.” “Good, what is it?”

The son replied, “I’ve only been a Georgia fan for an hour and I already hate you Tennessee bastards.”

Teaching Evolutionary Biology

This semester I am assisting Gene(Biol) 3000 - Evolutionary Biology. Rodney Mauricio and Wyatt Anderson are teaching the course. Rodney is teaching the first part, micro-evolution, and Wyatt is teaching the second part, macro-evolution.

A report recently came out that the University of Georgia should increase its academic rigour to keep up with the increased quality of our undergrads.

The overall bottom line of the report is a call for more academic rigor and an improved learning environment at the school, said several of the report’s authors.

“The students are coming to us and they are really bright, and what we’re doing now is kind of bringing them down,” said genetics professor Rodney Mauricio, one of the authors.

According to a survey cited in the study, UGA undergraduates do about 12 to 13 hours of school work per week outside class, less than half what professors say they ought to do, and less than at other universities similar to UGA.

Mauricio, who tried to make his own courses more rigorous during the nearly one year he served on the task force, said he’s convinced that both UGA students and faculty are ready to tackle a more challenging academic atmosphere, however.

Instead of rebelling, the good students “really embraced it,” he said.

And while some changes would cost, such as adding faculty, many are changes in attitude, he said.

“We need to tell all students, this is not grade 13, 14, 15, 16; this is something qualitatively different from high school we’re asking you to do here,” he said. “The talent is there. We need to maintain the challenge throughout the four years.”

Evolution is one of the classes becoming more rigorous (despite the fact that it was reclassified last year from a fourth-year class to a third-year class). This year students are required to read four paperback books as part of their evolutionary education: The Evolution Explosion by Stephen Palumbi, The Journey of Man by Spencer Wells, At the Water’s Edge by Carl Zimmer (my suggestion), and The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. They are also assigned Douglas Futuyma’s new svelte textbook, Evolution. If that wasn’t enough, the students are also required to attend discussion sections and take four essay based exams, including a comprehensive mid-term and final.

I think they were all quite shocked with the amount of work this class is going to entail. (At least they don’t have to turn in lab reports.) As I told one student last Thursday after the first class, the course will not test on memorization and regurgitation but on understanding and synthesis. (Poor pre-meds will actually need to think about science for a change.)

We’ll see how many of our 200 students are still in the class by the end of next week.

PDFs Available

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Well I’ve finished tweaking my new feature on this blog: pdf archives.

Now you will be able to download pdfs of my entries, for printing and emailing. I know you’ve all be wanted to do that.

On every entry archive there is now a link at the top to the pdf version of the entry.

The pdfs are constructed using a simple MovableType plugin that I wrote which can pipe text through any program on the server. I use this plugin to send an simple html document of the entry to Htmldoc, which outputs the pdf that is saved on the server.

Banded Tussock Moth

Tiffany and I saw another Banded Tussock Moth last night. It wasn’t resting on the weather stripping, but bouncing around the new light we installed by the front door.

Safari Working

Well Safari no longer crashes when it views this blog. I was finally able to track down the bug in my javascript and fix it.

KwickXML Syntax

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KwickXML is a Movable Type plugin that provides markup syntaxs for entries and comments. The markup syntax is based on XML, XHTML, and KwickCode.

Panda’s Thumb

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The Panda’s Thumb is currently down while we sort out some bandwidth issues. The Thumb was so popular yesterday that it was consuming all the bandwidth and more, peaking out at nearly 900kbps on a DSL connection that was only supposed to be 768kbps. Other machines on the connection lost their net access.

For a quick fix yesterday, Wesley and I added some modules to the webserver to cut down on its traffic. This was temporary until we could set up a firewall to control the traffic for us. We are now working on the firewall, but the server is off the net until someone can make some local modifications.

Postdoc

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Well yesterday, I accepted an offer to post-doc with Jeff Thorne at NCSU after I graduate this spring. That means that I will be moving to Raleigh in May or June while my wife says in Athens for another year.

It’ll be interesting.

Revised Dawg

Well, I finally finished revising my manuscript for Dawg and have sent it back to the editor. Now I can get back to working on my summer project.

Very much has been said about Dubya’s statements to the press the other day that Intelligent Design should be talk in school because “people ought to be exposed to different ideas.” Who knew that our president supported affirmative action? Intelligent design has zero scientific support and puts no effort into getting there. Instead it wages a propaganda campaign with politicians to skip the requirements of addition to scientific education: acceptance by the scientific community. Carl Zimmer offers and excellent question:

Mr. President, I would ask, how do you reconcile your statement that Intelligent Design should be taught alongside evolution with the fact that your administration, like both Republican and Democratic administrations before it, has supported research in evolution by our country’s leading scientists, while failing to support a single study that is explicitly based on Intelligent Design? The National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and even the Department of Energy have all decided that evolution is a cornerstone to advances in our understanding of diseases, the environment, and even biotechnology. They have found no such value in Intelligent Design. Are they wrong? Can you tell us why?

There is nothing fair about treating unequal things equally.

But if Bush wants it done that way I suggest that he start with his own office. His Republican administration can give equal time to a Democrat administration? Americans can have Bush for president during the first part of the day and Kerry for the second part of the day. Americans should be exposed to both points of view of governing.

If that isn’t enough for him, he can extend it to professional sports. After all, he was part owner of the Texas Rangers for many years. As I wrote a year ago, merit matters in sports and science. But if Bush is will to toss merit away for science, then he should be willing to toss it away for sports. No longer do we field the best players, the hardworking, talented ones. Instead we field all players equally, regardless of their merit. Shouldn’t fans be exposed to all types of players? Fat, lazy, and drunk couch potatoes should pitch as many innings as Cy Young award winners. Maybe the American league will even give pitchers an equal change to bat as the sluggers. (Okay, that would be a good thing.)

Don’t forget the catch Bush’s science advisor trying to do damage control over his boss’s comments.

Anniversary Moth

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Today Tiffany and I went to IHOP for breakfast. (More on that later tonight.) When we got back we found a little beige moth resting on our front door. Okay, it wasn’t resting on the front door but on the beige weather striping between the door and the jam. It was a really cool to see the moth resting where it was most hidden. I went in the house and got my digital camera to take its picture.

Unknown Moth

As you can see in the picture the moth has yellow and blue-green stripes on its back. I’ve tried to identify it, but I have no idea. (There is a reason why I’m a theoretician.)

I ended up disturbing the moth while taking its picture, and it jumped from its spot and landed on my shirt. I had not gotten the picture I wanted so I had to put it back on the door. When I did, it walked frantically from the black door to the white jam looking for a spot to rest and eventually settled back where it was originally: on the beige weather stripping near the top of the door.

Before any of you can complain about staged pictures, I got about twenty shots of it before I disturbed it.

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